With eighteen months to go before the presidential election, the Turkish president, who is predicted to lose in the polls, maintains his position: in economic matters, Islamic precepts prohibit usury. Even when the currency collapses and the population is driven to poverty, Mr Erdoğan imposes the lowest possible interest rates on the theoretically independent Central Bank. As a result, “Turkey is flirting with economic disaster” (La Croix) and on the 3rd, annual inflation reached a rate not seen for 20 years: 36%... officially. For the inflation research group ENAGrup, the consumer price index exceeds 80%, especially for foodstuffs: +86% for oil and +54% for bread... According to Iris, electricity has jumped by 120%. The TürkStat institute indicated that the producer price index had increased annually by 79.89%. “Before, we had dreams. Now we just hope to have enough bread for the day”, explained a mother who has long supported Erdoğan (Liberation).
But the government is silencing critical voices: in 18 months, 2 ministers of the economy and 3 governors of the Central Bank have been replaced. The new economy minister has even called for complaints against economists and journalists who mention the collapse of the pound! On 29 January, the director of TürkStat was sacked for refusing to disguise the figures collected by his services...
The middle class, the traditional supporter of the government, is being hit hard. Employees change their salaries into euros and buy back Turkish pounds in dribs and drabs for their purchases... Others buy cooking oil by the glass (Orient XXI) or bread subsidised by their municipality, as in Istanbul, a city run by the CHP (Kemalist opposition). The currency plunges with each of Erdoğan’s televised speeches... Demonstrators spontaneously assemble to shout “Government resign!”. Even the AKP strongholds on the Black Sea are getting restless. In the latest Metropoll Research poll, the President has only 38.6% support, and the AKP 27%... (WKI)
In response, Mr Erdoğan uses his usual method: diverting citizens’ anger towards scapegoats: the Kurds. This is all the more unfair as it is the Kurdish provinces, which have long been economically discriminated against, that are suffering the most from the crisis.
But the AKP is taking advantage of the situation to continue its criminalization of the HDP. It is also a revenge against this party which had helped the CHP to take the mayoralties of Istanbul and Ankara from the AKP by refraining from presenting candidates...
Significantly, on 3 January, the judiciary released the author of the attack on the HDP office in Bahçeliever (Istanbul), Eren Sütçü. A member of the fascist Grey Wolves movement, Sütçü had burst into the office on 28 December, making death threats and armed with two pistols and a knife with which he injured two people (Duvar). The attack sparked protests in Istanbul and the Kurdish provinces on 4 December, and the authorities finally had to place Sütçü in custody on 10 December.
On the same day, however, in front of the Law Faculty in Ankara, about 30 ultranationalists armed with machetes and knives attacked and injured three Kurdish students, one of them seriously in the thigh. The two main attackers were released from police custody after a few hours. Also on the 10th, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee was murdered in Istanbul by a masked group who had entered his room armed with knives.
The HDP denounced the responsibility of the government in increasing the threat of fascist lynchings: not only do the hate speeches of those in charge incite aggressions, but once the worst has happened, the perpetrator, sometimes called “My brother” by the arresting police officers, benefits from the leniency of the justice system... Already on 17 June, Onur Gencer, also close to the Grey Wolves, shot dead young female HDP worker Deniz Poyraz in the party’s office in Izmir. Questioned in court on 24 June, he said he regretted not having been able to kill other people! In the presence of his victim’s relatives, he asked for an investigation against her family, accusing Deniz Poyraz of being “responsible for the murder of some intelligence agents” (Kurdistan au féminin). When HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan testified as a prosecution witness that the killer had “trained to use weapons in Manbij” [Syria] and that he was a “supporter of ISIS”, the court called for an investigation against her for “inappropriate behaviour” (WKI).
Furthermore, the situation in Turkish prisons remains extremely worrying. Earlier this month, numerous demonstrations in Istanbul and in the Kurdish provinces of the country demanded the release of former HDP deputy Ms. Aysel Tuğluk, who has been imprisoned for five years. She has been suffering from dementia and her health has been worsening irreversibly for months, but the authorities refuse to release her on medical grounds. When HDP Co-Chair Pervin Buldan visited her on 24 December, she found that she had difficulty recognising her visitors, expressing herself and even eating alone. On the 10th, one thousand women launched a petition to demand her release and that of other sick prisoners (https://ayseltuglukicin1000kadin.org/english/), recalling that “The release of sick prisoners is a requirement of national and international legislation and conventions” and that “Last month, seven prisoners died in Turkish prisons”. On the 11th, the HDP launched an “Urgent Appeal” with the same demands, recalling that human rights organisations have been counting “more than 1,600 sick prisoners in Turkey”. On the 24th, twenty bars, including those in Izmir and Antalya, launched an appeal for the release of Tuğluk.
The case of Garibe Gezer remains emblematic of the horror of the situation in Turkish prisons: the 28-year-old female Kurdish political prisoner was found dead in her isolation cell on 9 December. The prison administration claimed it was suicide, but Gezer had said she had been sexually abused... On 11 January, 14 inmates of the Kandira women’s prison who had protested against her death were denied visits for a month. They had chanted slogans such as “The murderous state must be held to account” or “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” (“Women, Life, Freedom”). Among them were several HDP cadres, such as Figen Yüksekdag, Gülser Yıldırım and Edibe Sahin. Their lawyers have challenged the sanctions in the administrative court.
Unfortunately, other Kurdish prisoners have recently died suspiciously. On the 21st, it was reported that Ramazan Turan, a 70-year-old peasant imprisoned for 6 years and 3 months for “belonging to a terrorist organisation” and kept in solitary confinement, had died in Van. The authorities attributed his death to a heart attack, but the son of the prisoner, Hüseyin Turan, declared that his father had been in good health and that he would file a complaint after the body was returned (Kurdistan au féminin). On the 31st, a prisoner from Bingöl, Mehmet Hanifi, who was to be released in June, was also found dead in his cell in Bolu. Again, his death was attributed to a heart attack. He had suffered a heart attack 3 years ago.
At the same time, arrests, judicial proceedings and convictions continue unabated. While on the 6th, former HDP MP Abdullah Zeydan, imprisoned in November 2016 for “terrorism”, was released after 5 years by decision of the Court of Cassation, his cellmate in Edirne prison, former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, remains imprisoned, as well as his female counterpart Figen Yüksekdağ, despite a decision to the contrary by the European Court of Human Rights (Ahval). On the 24th, Demirtaş was even given an additional 11 months and 20 days for allegedly “insulting” then Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in a speech in February 2016. The latter, now in opposition and critical of the President’s “personal power”, has not withdrawn his complaint... (Turkish Minute)
On the 11th, police arrested two local Kurdish politicians, Mustafa Kuşman and Cemal Aslan, in Van. At the same time, two members of peace organizations, Nebahat Işçi and Hüseyin Inedi, were arrested in Cizre. On the same day, the AKP Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, Mustafa Şentop, declared that he was in favour of withdrawing the parliamentary immunity of HDP MP Semra Güzel. Recently released photos of Güzel show her in 2014 with Volkan Bora, a PKK member killed in 2017 by security forces. The MP said the photos were from the period of the peace process initiated in 2013 between the government and the PKK. Withdrawal proceedings are currently underway against 186 MPs, the vast majority from the HDP (Bianet). Once deprived of her immunity, Güzel faces prosecution for “terrorism”. Another HDP MP, Remziye Tosun, from Diyarbakir, has her immunity threatened because she asked a musician to play a Kurdish song at a wedding in 2019: for the prosecution, this is “propaganda for a terrorist organisation”! An activist of the “Free Women’s Movement” (Tevgera Jinên Azad, TJA), Tosun survived the attack on the old town of Diyarbakir (Sur district) by the Turkish army in 2015-2016. Incarcerated with her youngest daughter, aged one and a half, she had to fight for her three other children to be entrusted to their grandmother and not placed in a children’s home... Released in 2017, still subject to judicial control obligations, she had been elected MP for Diyarbakir in 2018 with the aim of giving a voice to all those affected by the destruction of Sur.
On the 17th, the court ruled in favour of the continued detention of Turkish patron Osman Kavala, setting the next hearing for 21 February. Imprisoned for over 4 years, Kavala faces life imprisonment on fabricated charges of “espionage” and involvement in the 2016 coup attempt. As for Demirtaş, Turkey has ignored the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) binding release order. It now faces sanctions such as the suspension of its vote in the Council of Europe.
At the end of the month, the police arrested six people in Mardin on the 26th, as well as 4 members of the HDP Youth Council in Van and a DBP (Democratic Regions Party) official in Diyarbakir, where they also searched an HDP office. In addition, the HDP leader of Iskenderun was sentenced to 2 years and 1 month in prison for “propaganda for a terrorist organisation” for a 2014 speech (WKI). On the 28th, a police armoured vehicle rammed and killed a 23-year-old Kurd in Şırnak (Turkey Rights Monitor).
Finally, journalists remain targets. On the occasion of “Working Journalists’ Day” (Çalışan Gazeteciler Günü) on 10 January, Atölye BİA published a damning assessment of their situation (https://atolyebia.org/haber-odasi/turkiye-gazeteciler-icin-bir-cezaevi-konumunda/), turned into English by Bianet. According to the 2021 edition of Reporters Without Borders’ annual “World Press Freedom Index”, Turkey is 153rd out of 180 countries, with Kurdish journalists particularly targeted: according to the co-chair of the “Tigris-Euphrates Journalists Association” (Dicle-Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği), Serdar Altan, in 2021, 54 journalists were targeted for investigation, 47 were sentenced to a total of 133 years’ imprisonment, and 2 were murdered. At the time of the interview, 62 of the association’s journalists were still in prison. Abdurrahman Gök (Mezopotamya Agency) and Derya Ren (JinNews, an all-female agency) also testified. A journalist for 17 years, Gök faces 20 years in prison for covering the police killing of an unarmed Kurdish citizen, Kemal Kurkut, during the 2017 Newrouz festival in Diyarbakir. For his photos and articles, he is accused of “belonging to” and “propaganda for” a terrorist organisation. Derya Ren testified about discrimination against women journalists, especially in the Kurdish provinces.
Finally, on the 26th, the Turkish President promised to “punish” the well-known journalist Sedef Kabaş, accused of having “insulted” him live. Kabaş had been arrested at her home on the night of 21-22, a few hours after quoting live on Tele1 (and then, aggravatingly, repeating on Twitter, where she has 900,000 followers) the proverb that “When the ox goes up to the palace, it does not become a king but the palace becomes a stable”. The Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) denounced a “serious attack on freedom of expression” (Ouest France).
The news in Rojava this month was largely dominated by the jihadist attack on the Al-Sinaa prison in Hasakah on 20 January, and the violent fighting that followed until the end of the month.
Already on the 12th, the Kurdish Red Crescent had announced the shooting of one of its relief workers in the camp of Al-Hol, killed according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) by two jihadists who had gained access to the medical centre using false identities. Since the beginning of 2021, the SOHR has counted 91 killings in Al-Hol, mostly of Iraqi refugees, but also of humanitarians... (AFP) The week before the attack, the AANES had proceeded to a new release, 217 Syrian jihadist prisoners entrusted to tribal officials who had confirmed that they had not participated into blood crimes...
So it was on the 20th that ISIS launched a large-scale attack on Al-Sinaa prison in the Ghwayran district of Hasakah, one of the largest facilities, housing around 3,500 inmates. This is “one of the largest operations by the jihadist group since it was defeated in 2019” (SOHR). The entrance to the building was first broken into by two truck bombs, then nearly 200 jihadists with heavy weapons rushed into the breach. Inside the prison, mutinous inmates seized an armoury to join the attackers in extremely violent fighting...
US forces, 700 strong at a nearby base, supported Kurdish forces by firing flares, striking the prison from the air and deploying armoured vehicles to try to prevent escapes. The death toll quickly rose to at least 20 Asayish (Kurdish security) and 16 jihadists killed, while escaped prisoners in the chaos took refuge in houses near the prison, killing residents or taking them hostages. The SDF announced that it had recaptured 89 escapees, with the total number estimated to be in the hundreds.
On the 24th, the death toll rose to 154, including 102 jihadists, 45 Kurdish fighters and 7 civilians, and nearly 45,000 people displaced by the fighting, in freezing temperatures. The city was placed under curfew. Some neighbourhoods would remain without electricity and running water for more than a week... Announcing the surrender of 300 jihadists, the SDF deployed reinforcements around the prison area in preparation for an assault, raising serious concerns about the fate of hundreds of children aged 12 to 17 who were there with the mutineers. According to the SDF, some of them were being used as “human shields” by the jihadists... On the 25th, the SDF announced more than 850 surrenders, and on the 26th, declared that it had regained total control of the prison and its surroundings, with an even higher death toll: 181 dead, including 124 jihadists, 50 Kurdish fighters and seven civilians. There were no details on the fate of the children among the mutineers. On the 27th, the previous day’s announcement proved to be premature when fighting resumed, with 60 to 90 armed jihadists discovered hiding in a wing of the prison. On the 28th, some 60 jihadists entrenched in the basement of the northern part of the building, difficult to reach from the air and likewise difficult to access from the inside, still refused to surrender. While searching the prison, the SDF found the bodies of 18 of their fighters and Kurdish policemen. On the 29th, new fighting broke out, this time in the area surrounding the prison. It was not until the 30th, ten days after the attack, that the fighting really ended, after a house-by-house sweep. The latest SOHR death toll was 373, including 268 jihadists, 98 members of the Kurdish forces and seven civilians. But the NGO estimates that the death toll could rise further, as many Kurdish fighters were seriously wounded during the fighting...
The presence of children in the prison quickly became controversial, with UNICEF’s head of Syria criticising the SDF for leaving them in the same facility as jihadists. Other NGOs also criticised the SDF and Autonomous Administration (AANES) for keeping minors in detention without charge. On the 27th, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, called for the evacuation of the children still present in Al-Sinaa during the monthly Security Council meeting devoted to the humanitarian situation in Syria (AFP). The AANES replied that it had been sounding the alarm for months about the situation of its prisoners and their relatives, warning that it had neither the resources nor the capacity to run secure prisons and detention camps. For years, it had been asking without success the countries of origin of its prisoners to repatriate them. One of AANES’ foreign policy officers, Abdelkarim Omar, blamed the attack and the situation on “the failure of the international community to take responsibility”. “This is an international problem that we cannot solve alone”, he told AFP. The SDF also denounced UNICEF’s criticism. On the 26th, AANES renewed its appeal to the international community, supported on the 31st by the United States, which reiterated its request to its allies to “urgently repatriate” their nationals (AFP). Finally, the SDF renewed its call for the creation of an international tribunal to determine the guilt of the detainees.
Moreover, SDF officials claimed to have evidence that the attack had been planned in Turkish-occupied areas. On the 27th, while fighting was still going on in Hasakah, Nuri Mahmoud, spokesman for the YPG (“People’s Protection Units”, the main component of the SDF), said in an interview with SOHR that the SDF had received information about a possible ISIS attack on Al-Sinaa several months in advance. According to this information, the jihadists preparing the attack had logistical and financial support from MIT, the Turkish intelligence service, which reportedly allocated up to $15 million to the operation. The operations room from which the attack was prepared was reportedly in Urfa and Gaziantep... According to Mahmoud, Hasakah was chosen as a target because it hosts the SDF headquarters. Thus, a jihadist takeover of the city from the areas surrounding the prison, Ghuwayran and Zohour, would have seriously disrupted their operational capabilities. According to Mahmoud, the cooperation of the inhabitants of these neighbourhoods, who helped to capture the jihadists, made the project fail.
On the 25th, the SDF had already indicated in a statement that the attack on the 20th had coincided with ground and air attacks launched from Turkish-occupied areas, which had been repulsed, but had left 3 civilians dead and 11 wounded... In a dispatch dated of the 22nd, the SOHR noted that Turkish forces had resumed their artillery fire on the vicinity of Ain Issa, north of Hasakah, and on the M4 road, to cover a (vain) attempt by their Syrian mercenaries to infiltrate the SDF’s position north of Raqqa. On the subject of this intensive firing, which coincided with the ongoing clashes in Hasakah, the NGO wrote: “It should be noted that this is the most violent attack carried out by Turkish forces for more than two months”...
Throughout the month, Turkish military harassment of the AANES never stopped. According to a report published on the 17th by the SDF Press Centre, during the first half of January, the region experienced 225 attacks using mortars, heavy artillery or tanks, which resulted in one civilian death and 31 injured. As evidence of the recent increase in Turkish attacks, the Kurdish channel Rûdaw reported on the 13th that more than 1,500 Kurds from Syria had arrived at the Bardarash camp in Iraqi Kurdistan since late December. In Hasakah, the incessant Turkish heavy artillery fire on the Zirgan district, which had been going on since the end of December, seems according to the SOHR to have been aimed at intimidating the inhabitants to force them to leave. Hundreds of terrorised families have left...
According to another SDF report, published on 6 June, the whole of 2021 saw more than 700 civilian kidnappings by pro-Turkish mercenaries, and 134 wounded by Turkish attacks, which also killed 148 SDF fighters (Rûdaw).
While the SDF fought jihadists around Hassakeh prison, Turkish attacks continued. On the 22nd, clashes pitted the Turks and their mercenaries against the SDF around the M4 highway, and heavy rocket fire hit villages near Ain Issa, north of Raqqa, killing 5 civilians and wounding 4 others. Early the next day, four more civilians were injured, two of them seriously. Taking advantage of the artillery shelling, the pro-Turkish mercenaries attempted to advance into AANES territory. Turkish artillery also disabled the Hiesha water treatment plant on the Raqqa-Tall Abyad road, depriving the town of the same name of drinking and irrigation water.
In the Syrian territories they control, the Turkish occupiers, assisted by their Syrian mercenaries, continue their abuses. On the 18th, the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch published its World Report 2022, which devotes a section to these abuses. According to the report, the “Syrian National Army” (a name that disguises a Turkish mercenary militia) has arbitrarily detained at least 162 people in Syria and illegally transferred 63 others to Turkey, where they have been tried and sentenced to life imprisonment (WKI). In Afrin specifically, according to a report published on 11 by the NGO Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), in 2021, more than 580 people were arrested, including 46 women and 16 teenagers, some “simply because they were Kurds” (https://stj-sy.org/en/syria-584-persons-arrested-in-afrin-over-2021/). STJ concludes that the purpose was to intimidate people into leaving, a form of ethnic cleansing. According to the Afrin Human Rights Organisation, in just the first two years of the occupation, the Kurdish population there had in fact fallen by January 2020 from 97% to 34.8%. The UN counts more than 150,000 displaced Kurds from Afrin, mostly to the Shahba camp in Tel Rifaat (Rûdaw).
In parallel with ethnic cleansing, Syrian factions continue to destroy agricultural property and historical heritage in the region. In both cases, the aim is to sell for money, whether it is historical artefacts or felled fruit and olive trees sold as firewood. No one seems to care about stopping these war crimes. In early January, the SOHR renewed its “call to international organisations and the UN Security Council to make efforts to pressure the Turkish government to stop the daily violations [...] in the Euphrates Shield, Olive Branch and Source of Peace areas”. In particular, the NGO notes that “Since Turkish forces and their loyal factions control the city of Afrin, they have destroyed dozens of archaeological sites, the most important of which is Tal Ain Darah, which had already been subjected to Turkish air strikes in 2018. Turkish forces then destroyed the site and stole its basalt lion to transfer it to an unknown destination”.
Further abuses by Turkish gendarmes (Jandarma) were also reported on the Turkish-Syrian border. On 5 December, a young Syrian man seriously injured by Jandarma on 29 December while tending sheep near Hassakeh died of his injuries in Qamishli hospital. On 11 December, the Jandarma beat a civilian from Amouda who was trying to enter Turkey near Derbasiye, breaking his leg. The next day, they beat three Syrian youths near Hassake, leaving two with broken ribs, before sending them back to the Syrian side. On the 25th, a civilian died of his wounds after being shot at near the border in Kobanê. On the 30th, a child working in an agricultural field near the Hatay border, west of Idlib, was killed by their gunfire. According to the SOHR, since 2011, more than 500 Syrian civilians have been killed by Turkish gendarmes, including 91 minors and 45 women. On the 31st, a video posted on social networks showed several Jandarma beating up young Syrians…
For the first time in years, senior Turkish and Syrian officials met in Moscow to discuss their relations. In particular, they discussed “the possibility of working together against the YPG” (WKI).
While the Kurds are fully participating in the negotiations for the formation of the new Iraqi government, in the so-called disputed Kurdish territories under Iraqi administration, they continue to be victims of jihadist attacks, discrimination by the authorities, with the creeping resumption of the Arabisation policy dating back to Saddam Hussein... On social networks, various media or journalists are constantly broadcasting praises of the former dictator, so much so that at the beginning of the month, nearly 50 organisations called for a new law criminalising the denial of the Kurdish genocide committed by him.
On 2 January, the Iraqi army’s 61st division, responsible for the security of Kirkuk, launched for the second time in a week an early morning raid on the Kurdish neighbourhood of Azadi. The removal of the Kurdish language from new road signs recently installed by the municipality has angered residents. A municipal official claimed that the absence of Kurdish from the new signs, manufactured in Turkey, was the result of a “technical error”... Meanwhile, the Ankara-backed Turkmen Front issued a statement supporting the renaming of two Kirkuk districts from Kurdish to Arabic or Turkish. This is a return to the Ba’ath era designations – already implemented by the interim governor Rakan Al-Jabouri.
On the 5th, the Federal Court of Cassation ruled in favour of the Kurdish owners of 4,000 donums in Daquq in a procedure initiated by the Department of Agriculture in favour of Arabs settled in 1993 by the Ba’athist regime as part of its Arabisation policy. Two other procedures are underway for 14,000 donums. This did not prevent the court in Daquq on the 13th from changing its signs to remove the Kurdish language...
In Makhmour, also on the 13th, residents demonstrated against the Iraqi army’s blockade of the town, which prevents the delivery of food and medicine. At the same time, residents of the nearby refugee camp protested against new security measures put in place by the army: only one entry point into the camp is now allowed, and surveillance cameras have been installed to monitor any movement...
Another problem seriously affecting the inhabitants of the disputed territories is the deterioration of security due to constant jihadist attacks. ISIS continues to take advantage of the security vacuum left between the Kurdish peshmerga lines and the Iraqi federal forces. Residents are mostly left to fend for themselves against the terrorists, although in some cases, as in Makhmur on 31 December, local volunteers can foil attacks.
The Kurds have been asking for months for better Iraqi-Kurdish security cooperation. Discussions had already started in July 2021 to set up two joint brigades, but implementation is proceeding very slowly. The budget issue seemed to be resolved when, in early November, the official order to combine the 20th Peshmerga Brigade with the 66th Iraqi Brigade was issued, specifying that the Iraqi Ministry of Defence would arm and pay for the two joint brigades resulting from the merger (Bas News). On the 3rd, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Peshmerga, Jabbar Yawar, stated that the 2 brigades would start functioning “this month”. On the 17th, Peshmerga General Abdulkhaleq Talaat, liaison officer with the Iraqi forces, told Rûdaw that the training of the 2 joint brigades was “85% complete”, with the deployment locations determined, from the borders of Iran to Syria, the delay being solely due to the allocation of salaries. On the 30th, a new Iraqi-Kurdish military meeting was held in Chamchamal (Sulaimaniyeh) to evaluate several joint operations against ISIS that have taken place since the beginning of December and to plan the next ones (PUKmedia).
The few joint operations had actually begun to show positive results in the second half of December, with a reduction in jihadist attacks. However, Jabbar Yawar pointed to the lack of drones affecting the peshmerga, as Baghdad does not provide them with the American aircraft they would like to have. Moreover, this does not mean that ISIS has disappeared. On the 7th, after a week of apparent calm, the jihadists resumed their attacks, launching 8 Katyusha rockets on Peshmerga posts near Pirde (Altun Kopri), without causing any casualties. On the 10th, they kidnapped the chief (mukhtar) of the village of Delsi, south of Daqouq district, after controlling the village for nearly two hours until an Iraqi patrol arrived. On 12 December, a jihadist cadre responsible for transporting terrorists was apprehended in Touz Khourmatou. On the 20th, a coalition aircraft struck several ISIS positions in the Qara Chokh Mountains, used as a sanctuary by the jihadists (WKI). On the 21st, the jihadists inflicted heavy losses on the Iraqi army, killing 11 soldiers at a base in Diyala, near the Iranian border (Al-Monitor). The next day, they attacked another Iraqi base, again in Qara Chokh, while another attack hit Daqouq...
Following the attack by ISIS on Hasakeh prison in Rojava on the 20th, the Iraqi Prime Minister ordered a general inspection of Iraqi prisons by counter-terrorism forces on the 22nd to detect any security risks; the inspection lasted until the 30th.
On the 24th, an Iraqi patrol lost three men, killed near Daqouq by an IED detonated as their vehicle passed. On the 25th, clashes in the Rokhana valley led to the intervention of the Iraqi air force. On the 27th, a new attack, on three simultaneous axes, targeted the village of Tamour near Daqouq, provoking clashes lasting several hours. At the same time, security forces announced the arrest of a sniper in the Hawija district. On the same day, a jihadist infiltration attempt was prevented at the Syrian border, possibly by Hassakeh (WKI) escapees. On the 29th, Iraqi police arrested 3 civilians in Nineveh who were extorting money from civilians for ISIS (Rûdaw). Finally, on the 30th, jihadists launched a massive attack on Iraqi police near the Rashad district in Kirkuk, killing two officers and wounding two others.
Moreover, the military presence and regular Turkish strikes add to the insecurity felt by the inhabitants. Asharq Al-Awsat makes a bitter assessment of the situation in North-Western Iraq: “The regions of the Nineveh Plain that are home to [religious and ethnic] minorities have become areas of security tension and political messages and an arena for the resolution of international, regional and local conflicts”, notes the daily (Courrier International). Among these minorities, the Yezidis, already victims of ISIS’s attempted genocide, are now being held hostage on their territory by national and international rivalries: at the national level, the Kurdish parties, opposing the central government, want to assert their presence in the disputed areas, while at the international level, Turkey is constantly striking at local forces affiliated to the PKK, particularly in the Sindjar district, without the Iraqi government seeming to be able to do anything. Finally, the Turkish army has installed in Bashiqa, north of Mosul, a military base, Zilikan, which is regularly targeted by the pro-Iranian militias, as on the 15th of this month. In fact, while Turkey justifies its military presence in Iraq by the fight it is waging against the PKK, the scale of this presence suggests that Ankara’s objectives are broader and that Turkey could wish in the long term to take control of large “security zones”, or even impose, as it is doing in Syria, an ethnic reconfiguration of which the Kurds would be the first victims... The Kurdish Institute in Washington notes that “thousands of Kurdish civilians have been uprooted by Turkish military operations, leaving entire valleys empty of Iraqi or Kurdish civilians. Turkish forces are not allowing Kurdish civilians to return to their villages, which presages a full and sustained Turkish occupation” (WKI).
However, Turkish strikes continued this month. Earlier this month, several artillery strikes hit the village of Hiror (Dohuk), and the Sherbajer area (Suleimaniyeh) was subjected to aerial bombardment. In Makhmour camp, already hit by Turkey several times since 2017, drones flew overhead on the 19th, causing concern among residents.
But it was the district and town of Sinjar (Shengal), the ancestral land of the Yezidis, that was hit the hardest, causing an increase in tensions between the population and the Iraqi security forces. Seven Yezidis who took part in clashes provoked by protests against the Turkish strikes on the town were even charged on the 7th under the anti-terrorism law. In Sinjar, the Turkish strikes add to a situation that has remained dire since the 2014 ISIS invasion, characterised by a lack of security and basic services. On the 13th, the Iraqi anti-corruption commission opened several investigations after Yezidi organisations denounced the corruption behind the mismanagement of funds allocated to the return of displaced Yezidis to their homes. Nearly eight years after the attack by ISIS, 700 Yezidi families are still living in makeshift camps at the foot of Mount Sinjar, trapped by snow and bitter cold. On the 20th, the Yezidi MP Vian Dakhil called on the governments in Baghdad and Erbil “to assume their responsibilities” and to come to their aid as a matter of urgency (Kurdistan au Féminin).
Regarding maintaining security in Sinjar, the West Nineveh Operations Commander announced the activation of the Erbil-Baghdad agreement on Sinjar, including the formation of a new force composed of Yezidis. Concluded in October 2020, this agreement has so far not been concretely implemented... In the middle of the month, tension rose between the PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ) and the Iraqi army, after the latter removed a statue of the YBŞ commander, Zardast Shingal, who was killed in a Turkish air strike the previous year. The YBŞ demanded the statue’s return, prompting a wave of arrests in response. The governor of Nineveh called for de-escalation... On the 21st, a Turkish drone strike hit a YBŞ convoy, killing 3 fighters including an officer. On the 28th, another Turkish strike targeted another YBŞ official outside his home.
The ongoing all-out discussions to form the next Iraqi government are marked by multiple tensions and intra-communal divisions.
Firstly, a violent Iranian-American opposition persists on Iraqi territory. Secondly, the results of the early legislative elections of October 10, called by Prime Minister Al-Qadhimi following the major demonstrations of 2019, confirm the loss of influence on the political spectrum of pro-Tehran Shiite political parties: the Al-Fatih Alliance (“Conquest”), the political showcase of the Hashd al-Shaabi (“Popular Mobilization Units”), obtained only 17 seats, compared to 48 in the previous parliament. It cried fraud after the election, but the courts rejected its appeals for annulment... (AFP) This electoral setback is pushing the pro-Iranian parties to resort to violence to make themselves heard. The third factor of tension is time: the new electoral law put in place by the Qadhimi government imposes strict deadlines. Within 15 days of the certification of the results by the Supreme Court, the new parliament must meet and elect its speaker. The largest bloc must be registered at the same session. Finally, within 30 days of its first session, the parliament must elect the new Iraqi president, who will charge the largest bloc with forming the government... (Al-Monitor)
According to a tacit agreement between the three main Iraqi communities, which has been respected since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Prime Minister must be chosen from among Shiite personalities, the President of the Parliament must be Sunni, and the President of the Republic must be Kurdish. But the communities are themselves divided. While the Sunni parties have agreed to keep Mohammad al-Halbousi, of the Taqqadum (“Progress”) party, as speaker of the Parliament, the Shiites are divided between pro-Iranian parties, gathered in the “Coordination Framework”, and “Sadrists”, i.e. the supporters of Moqtada Al-Sadr, who, with the KDP, appears to be one of the main winners of the elections... As for the two main Kurdish parties, KDP and PUK, although united in Kurdistan within a coalition, they are in deep disagreement on several points, including the renewal of Barham Saleh (PUK) as Iraqi President. For their part, the Shiites continued their internal negotiations to try and agree on a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. In addition, discussions were held between the three communities, with the Kurds meeting Sunnis and Sadrists in Baghdad and a Sadrist delegation going to Erbil for meetings with KDP representatives.
At the inaugural session of parliament on 9 January, the newly elected MPs took the oath of office. They then proceeded to the election of the Speaker of Parliament. The outgoing Sunni Speaker Al-Halbousi was re-elected. The Kurdish deputy from Kirkuk, Shakhwan Abdullah Ahmed, affiliated to the KDP, was elected vice-president as well as the Shiite Sadrist deputy Hakim Al-Zamili. First consecration of the Sadr-PDK-Taqqadum coalition, Halbousi received the votes of the KDP, while the PUK deputies left the session without taking part in the vote. Deputies from the “Coordination Framework” challenged the validity of the session and filed a request with the Supreme Court to cancel the session.
A few days later, on the 13th, the Green Zone in Baghdad, including the US embassy and several military installations, was targeted by rocket fire, injuring 3 civilians. On the 15th, a drone attack on the Balad base (Diyala) was thwarted when 3 drones, spotted from a distance, had to turn back after being targeted. Neither the launch site nor those responsible for this attempt could be identified, but suspicions point to the pro-Iranian Hashd al-Shaabi militia, already presumed to be responsible for the 7 November attack on the Prime Minister’s residence. Later the same day, other rockets targeted a Turkish base in Nineveh. Their launch site, near Bashiqa, also points to these militias (Asharq al-Awsat). Finally, homemade bombs in Baghdad targeted the premises of the KDP, branches of the Kurdish banks Djihan and Bank of Kurdistan, injuring a woman and a child, and a Sunni deputy of Taqqadum, the party of Al-Halbousi. Although none of these attacks were claimed, it seems to be a “message” from the pro-Iranian militias to the Sadr-led coalition that they want seats in the next government: all Sadr’s partners were targeted.
However, the bridges were not completely cut between the two camps, since in Erbil, the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, received Hadi al-Ameri, leader of both the Shiite organisation Badr and the Al-Fatih Alliance, a member of the “Coordination Framework”, on the 17th. This meeting could be part of the strategy that some believe Moqtada Al-Sadr is pursuing: to “turn around” Al-Fatih by offering it positions and thus marginalise the other components of the “Coordination Framework”...
On 25 February, the Supreme Court validated al-Halbousi’s re-election as head of parliament, rejecting the request to cancel the inaugural session and thus allowing the political process to resume. Parliamentarians have until 8 February to elect the President of the Republic (L’Orient-Le Jour). The latter will in turn have 15 days to appoint a Prime Minister. On the same day, the residence of Al-Halbousi in the Anbar governorate was targeted by 3 Katyusha rockets which wounded two children (WKI).
The choice of the future Iraqi President will also face difficulties. Until 2018, the KDP and the PUK had a “gentleman’s agreement”, known as the “strategic agreement”, according to which the Iraqi presidency went to the PUK and that of the Kurdistan Region to the KDP. Neither partner-adversaries opposed each other’s candidates for either position. But in 2018, for the first time, the KDP put forward against Barham Saleh its own candidate, Fuad Hussayn, who was not successful (he is now Foreign Minister). This year, while the PUK is presenting Saleh again, the KDP is also running against him its own candidate, former Finance and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. And in fact, the KDP seems to be in a better position than its opponent to win, both in terms of number of seats (31 against 18 for the PUK) and in terms of political support (the Sadr-PDK-Taqqadum coalition).
On the 31st, following an initiative by KDP President Massoud Barzani to ease the tensions accompanying the process of forming the future government, the leaders of the three potential partners, Nechirvan Barzani, Mohammed al-Halbousi, and Moqtada Al-Sadr met at the latter’s home in Najaf. KDP spokesman Mahmoud Mohammed confirmed to the Kurdish channel Rûdaw that Massoud Barzani’s initiative was the result of a request from the commander of the Iranian Al-Quds Force, Ismail Qaani, who came to Erbil accompanied by the highest Iranian official in Iraq, the former ambassador to Baghdad, the Iraqi-Iranian Hassan Danaeifar. At the end of the meeting, Halbousi tweeted from Najaf a somewhat paradoxical message in which he reiterated Sadr’s promises: “The time for foreign interference in the formation of Iraqi governments is over. He added that the meeting was to discuss a "purely national Iraqi government, neither eastern nor western”.
As negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme continue in Vienna, the Iranian parliament has announced sanctions against 51 US civilian and military officials for “terrorism” and “human rights violations”: they were involved in the targeted assassination of Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad in 2019. On the same day, Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said that talks were progressing... While neither side wants to appear to be giving in, both need success and want to avoid conflict. The sticking point for Iran remains when the sanctions reinstated by Donald Trump in May 2018 will be lifted (New York Times). This reinstatement had caused a contraction of the Iranian economy (- 6%), which had taken off again after the signing of the treaty (+13.4% in 2016). For Washington, the concern is more about Tehran’s progress in enriching uranium since the United States left the treaty: 60% last August according to the IAEA, well above the 3.67% ceiling set by the treaty. If the negotiations do not succeed quickly, Tehran could come dangerously close to a nuclear weapon (90% enrichment), while its missile programme progresses...
On 13 January, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Iran had only “a few weeks” left to return to the deal before Washington would begin to consider “other options, in close coordination with the countries involved”... (Al-Monitor)
The day before, the Franco-Iranian anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah, under house arrest since October 2020, was again incarcerated in Evin prison for “failure to comply with the rules of her assignment”... Arrested in June 2019, she had been sentenced in May 2020 to 5 years in prison for “propaganda against the regime” and “harming national security” (HRANA). Her support committee denounced her re-imprisonment “while the Covid pandemic continues in full swing”, and that “the death in custody of poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin [on 8 January]” demonstrates “the inability or unwillingness [of the government] to guarantee the safety of its detainees”...
As it does not recognise dual nationality, Iran does not hesitate to arrest dual nationals to use them as leverage, a method sometimes described as “hostage diplomacy”. Thus Fariba Adelkhah’s partner, Roland Marchal, who was arrested at Tehran airport when he came to visit her, was literally exchanged in March 2020 for the engineer Jalal Ruhollah-Nejad, imprisoned in France for violating American sanctions. More than a dozen dual nationals are still held in Iran. The Iraqi Kurdish channel Rûdaw quotes in particular British-Iranian humanitarian Zaghari-Ratcliffe, convicted in 2016, German-Iranian architect Nahid Taghavi, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF official, Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmad Reza Jalali, Iranian-American environmentalist Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi, an American-Iranian... On the 24th, British-Iranian aeronautical engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, who was arrested in 2017 during a visit to his mother and then sentenced to 12 years in prison for “spying for Israel”, started a hunger strike to protest against his poor prison conditions and the refusal of a parole (HRANA).
The Frenchman Benjamin Brière is not a binational, but after he was arrested during a trip in May as he had been using a drone to take photos of “forbidden zones”, he was imprisoned for 600 days while awaiting trial for “espionage” and “propaganda against the regime”. His trial finally opened on 20 June in Mashhad and he was sentenced on 25 June, after a closed session, to 8 years and 8 months in prison. According to his lawyer, who told HRANA before the hearing that he had not been able to access the prosecution file, the judges, who illegally changed the charges at the last minute, mentioned during the trial the possibility of an “exchange”, which “revealed their intention” (HRANA). The French Foreign Ministry immediately described his conviction as “unacceptable” (Le Monde).
In the face of this state blackmail, the beginnings of a “hostage counter-diplomacy” are emerging. Some former hostages from the American embassy in Tehran between 1979 and 1981 travelled to Vienna to meet Western negotiators and “try to convince them [...] to tell Iran that there will be no nuclear agreement until all the hostages are free” (La Croix).
At the same time, the regime continues its assassinations of kolbars, those Kurdish cross-border carriers forced into this activity by poverty and the lack of other employment in a Kurdistan of Iran economically stricken by state discrimination and sanctions. Although unarmed and therefore not dangerous, they are regularly shot by border guards... On 2 January, two of them were injured while mines dating from the Iran-Iraq war caused several victims in Dehloran, Baneh and (on the Iraqi side) in Penjwîn. On the 6th, one kolbar was shot dead and another wounded in Nowsud (Kermanshah). On the 11th, an ambush and then another mine wounded 3 near Nowsud, and another ambush killed 1 and wounded 3 on the 18th near Urmia. Another kolbar was killed in a car accident in Nowsud on the 31st.
According to HRANA’s annual report, in 2021, 242 citizens were targeted by these abuses, of whom 94 were killed. Among them, 23 kolbars and 31 sukhtbar (fuel carriers). 148 people were injured, including 81 kolbars and 51 sukhtbars.
This month, the situation of these porters has been further aggravated by bitter cold and heavy snowfalls, sometimes exceeding 2 m. More than 550 villages have been isolated without electricity or food, and have been confronted with rising prices for essential products such as bread. Here again, the state was accused of indifference (Rûdaw).
In the middle of the month, local activists and international media reported mysterious night-time explosions heard in several cities in western Iran, including Sanandaj, Hamadan, Mehra, Kermanshah, Kamyaran, Paveh and Javanrud. While some officials claimed that it was thunderstorms, several sources mentioned tests of air defence systems, an explanation denied by the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards). Some users of social networks have even envisaged Israeli strikes... Since the crash of the Ukrainian Boeing over Tehran in January 2020, many Iranians no longer believe in the official explanations (Rûdaw).
In Iranian Kurdistan, the regime has continued its permanent repression since the beginning of the month. In particular, four Kurds were arrested in Sanandaj on the 4th for organising the funeral of a political prisoner, Heidar Ghorbani, whom the Iranian authorities had executed last December. In parallel, several other arrests also took place in Paveh, Naghadeh, Puranshahr, and Kamyaran. In the latter city, Kianosh Rahmani was arrested for posting a picture of Ghorbani on social media. In Bokan, two Kurds were sentenced to six months in prison for “undermining national security”, and in Tehran, a Kurd called Shirko Agoshi received ten years in prison for “belonging to a banned Kurdish opposition party”. Some of those arrested were held incommunicado, and in several cases the arresting officers did not show a warrant (HRANA).
On 8 August, Kurdish language teacher Zara Mohammadi, sentenced on appeal to 5 years in prison for “establishing an organisation to disrupt national security”, was summoned to begin her sentence in Sanandaj prison after the Supreme Court rejected her request for a retrial. Many observers have denounced the verdict as contrary to both the Iranian constitution and the UN Convention on Human Rights. Mohammadi’s only “crime” was teaching children their mother tongue.
In Mahabad, the “Islamic Revolutionary Court” continues to prolong the detention of the three Kurdish activists Farzad Samani, Sakar Eini, and Mohammad Houshangi arrested a year ago. Accused of “armed insurrection”, they are in pre-trial detention in Urmia. According to the families, the judge in charge of the case keeps delaying the trial for lack of evidence, while denying the defendants bail.
On 16 August, political prisoner Khaled Fereidooni was granted a leave of absence for the first time after spending 21 years in prison. Arrested in August 2000, he was initially sentenced to death for “undermining national security” and “enmity against God (Moharebeh) by association with a political party hostile to the regime”, before his sentence was changed on appeal to life imprisonment.
On the 18th, Hengaw reported that some 20 Kurdish prisoners, mostly political, had been put in solitary confinement for refusing transfers to a “security prison”. Dozens of them went on hunger strike. To better understand these refusals, it should be recalled that in 2021, 17 Kurdish prisoners died in prison, including 10 tortured to death... In addition, at least 48 Kurdish prisoners were sentenced to death and executed. On the same day, environmental activist Armin Esperlous was sentenced in Sanandaj to 1 year in prison for “cooperation with the Free Life Party of Kurdistan” (PJAK).
On the 24th, human rights defender Nargis Mohammadi was, according to her husband, sentenced to 8 years in prison and 70 lashes after a hearing lasting only 5 minutes. Mohammadi, a long-time opponent of the death penalty, had been arrested many times before (Ruedaw).
In addition, reports from the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) and the Kurdish Human Rights Network (KHRN) suggest that an even more severe and arbitrary wave of arrests than usual has started this month in Iranian Kurdistan. On the 11th, the Washington Kurdish Institute reported the arrest of at least 19 Kurds in the previous week: 8 in Divandareh, 4 in Naghadeh, 4 in Oshnavieh, 2 in Sanandaj and 1 in Baneh. According to KHRN, the wave of arrests began on 9 January. Several families of those arrested, residing in Tehran, Karaj, Bokan, Rabat and Mahabad, said they had received brief phone calls from their relatives informing them that they were being held by the IRGC in Urmia. But the prosecutor of their city and the prosecutor of Urmia, when contacted, replied that they were not aware of any such arrests and that no arrest warrant had been issued... The subsequent investigation by the KHRN suggests a wave of arrests launched simultaneously by the Pasdaran Intelligence in Tehran, Karaj, Mahabad, Rabat and Marivan, and by the Intelligence (Etelaat) in Piranshahr, Bukan, Naqadeh, Saqez and Marivan... These arrests were carried out arbitrarily, without any court decision. The scale of the repression is unusual, even for Iran where it is permanent.
On the 25th, the KHRN published a list of 57 such incommunicado persons (https://kurdistanhumanrights.org/en/iran-forces-arbitrarily-detain-kurdish-civilians-activists/), but arrests continued thereafter; the Washington Kurdish Institute reported that 23 people had been imprisoned in Iranian Kurdistan in the last week of the month, citing among others: activist Zaman Zeawia and filmmaker Medad Nazhad in Saqqez, a trade union activist, Rebwar Abdullahi, and two activists, Soma Shapari and Mahsa Mohamed in Sanandaj and two environmental activists, Ayoub Hadesi and Rahman Khadematikozar, in Piranshahr. Security forces also arrested several Kurds in Oshanavieh, Sarvabad, Javanrud, Bokan and Baneh.
The end of the month was also marked by nationwide demonstrations by teachers protesting against their low salaries and poor living conditions, called by the “Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Professional Associations”. Demonstrations and strikes started on the 30th and continued on the 31st, provoking a brutal response from the authorities, dozens of arrests of organisers and members of local teachers’ unions, including two teachers from Marivan, Jabar Dosti and Shabaan Mohamadi, members of the “Kurdistan Teachers Professional Association” (HRANA).
Nine years almost to the day after the assassination of Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez in Paris on 9 January 2013, a thousand participants marched through the streets of Paris on Saturday 8 January to pay tribute to these three Kurdish activists and to demand justice in this case that has never been tried. In the calm and under rain, the procession left the Gare du Nord to reach the Place de la République, behind a large banner bearing the effigy of the three women, with the inscription “Without justice, France will remain guilty!” The investigation found “involvement” of members of the MIT, the Turkish secret service, in the triple murder, but stopped short of naming the masterminds. In Turkey, media outlets released a document presented as an MIT “mission order” for Omer Güney, the alleged assassin. In January 2014, MIT officially denied any involvement, and Güney died of a brain tumour before his trial, ending the legal action. This unfinished business leaves a very bitter taste for members of the Kurdish community in France. “Nine years later, it is a stain on the history of France. It is not normal. Justice must be done”, Agit Polat, spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Council in France (CDK-F) and one of the organisers of the demonstration, told AFP.
In May 2019, after multiple requests, an anti-terrorist judge was charged with taking over the investigation and a judicial inquiry was opened for “complicity in murder in relation to a terrorist undertaking” and “criminal terrorist association”. In a press release, the organisers of the demonstration demanded that the defence secrecy, invoked by the French authorities, be lifted concerning the information held by the intelligence services. As for the demonstrators, they have little doubt as to who ordered the attack. Among other slogans, they chanted while marching “Erdogan assassin!”.
After a historic trial, former Syrian colonel Anwar Raslan was sentenced on 13 January by the Koblenz High Court to life imprisonment for “crimes against humanity”. He was found guilty of ordering or perpetuating torture against at least 4,000 prisoners in Al-Khatib prison in Damascus and the murder of 27 of them between April 2011 and September 2012. This is the first verdict ever against a senior Syrian official. The case was brought abroad thanks to the “universal jurisdiction” recognised by German courts, which allows the prosecution of the most serious crimes regardless of where they were committed and the nationality of the perpetrators or victims.
The former officer had been arrested in February 2019 after being recognised by some of his victims who had taken refuge in Germany. A junior officer under Raslan’s command in Syria, Eyad Al-Gharib, a co-accused, was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison. Raslan was the head of investigations of the Syrian military intelligence division 251. He coordinated arrests, investigations and interrogations conducted under torture to extract confessions from prisoners. The detainees were not only “tortured but also starved and deprived of air”, the President of the court stressed. They were “beaten all over their bodies, especially on the soles of their feet”, “hung by their wrists” and subjected to “electric shocks and burns”. The judges also found Raslan guilty of sexual violence and aggravated rape.
Can such a trial, held at a time when Bashar Al-Assad’s regime seems to be able to emerge from the civil war by retaining power, contribute to preventing states from normalising their relations with the Syrian government, or even to allowing the prosecution of those responsible for the torture? This is what many exiled Syrians hope for, while there are still thousands of people missing from the regime’s detention centres and probably thousands of prisoners still subjected to the same abuses. In any case, it is an undeniable symbolic victory for the victims.
Musician Wassim Mukdad, one of the 34 plaintiffs in the trial, hopes that the Koblenz conviction will be “the first step” of a long way, “which will only end when the dictator Bashar Al-Assad and all the criminals around him face a court of justice”. But the path could be strewn with obstacles. Clémence Bectarte, a lawyer and coordinator of the International Federation for Human Rights’ judicial division, who praises the “pioneering” work of the German court, regrets “the contrast with France, where there is no trial and no case heard”. At the end of November 2021, French justice declared itself incompetent to judge Syrians living in France for crimes against humanity committed in their country of origin. But the blockage is not only in France. As the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch points out, the International Criminal Court in The Hague does not have an automatic mandate, as Syria is not a party to it. The UN Security Council has the power to give it jurisdiction, but China and Russia vetoed it in 2014...
Human Rights Watch has posted a comprehensive article on the background to the case and how Anwar Raslan came to be tried (https://www.hrw.org/feature/2022/01/06/seeking-justice-for-syria/how-an-alleged-intelligence-officer-was-put-on-trial-in-germany).
377 books were published in the Kurdish language in Turkey and Northern Kurdistan in 2021
In 2021, there was an increase in the number of Kurdish language publications in Turkey in the Kurmancî and Kurmanckî (Zazakî/Dimilkî) dialects. This is all the more remarkable as this language is discriminated against and virtually excluded from the public domain and education, which can only have a negative effect on its publications. Another negative factor affecting publishers is the instability of the exchange rate.
According to a list compiled by journalist Cemil Oguz and published on the cultural and artistic news website Diyarname, the total number of books published in the past year is 377, an important figure for the progress of the Kurdish language, which is tolerated but marginalised and still under threat of prosecution by the Turkish judiciary.
The books were published by 26 different publishing houses. The publisher J&J is in the lead with 68 books, including 20 books for children, followed by Avesta with 59 books. They together account for about one third of the books published during the past year. The publisher Peywend is in third place with 33 books published, followed by Lis with 26 books and Na with 24 books.
This year, with 77 publications, the novel genre tops the list, whereas in previous years it was poetry. Poetry comes second with 72 collections, followed by the short story with 64 books.
The most productive authors, in descending order, are: Kerem Tekoglu, with 20 books for children, Hilmi Akyol with 12 collections of oral literature, including 6 books on the bards (dengbêj) of Diyarbekir, Kemal Tolan with 6 books on the Yezidis, Fewaz Hisên (published in France with the spelling Fawaz Hussein) with 6 books, including 5 translations, Elî Çiçek and Evdî Hesqera with 2 books in the Kurmanckî dialect.
Florence HELLOT-BELLIER, a leading specialist in the history of the Assyro-Chaldeans and a member of the Humanities section of the Kurdish Institute, died on 8 December 2002 after a long illness.
She was 78 years old.
Her death has caused much sadness among her family, her friends at the Kurdish Institute, the Assyrian-Chaldean community to which she was very close and among researchers interested in Iran.
Her funeral took place in the strictest of family privacy.
She graduated in Persian in 1982, and in 1998 she defended her doctoral thesis in history at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. A meticulous and independent researcher, she specialised in the history of Iran at the end of the Qadjar dynasty and the Assyro-Chaldean Christians. She has published reference works such as France-Iran, quatre cents ans de dialogue (“France-Iran, four hundred years of dialogue”), Les Assyro-Chaldéens d’Iran et du Hakkâri face aux ambitions des empires (1896-1920) (“The Assyrian-Chaldeans of Iran and Hakkâri faced with the ambitions of empires (1896-1920)”), Les Assyriens du Hakkâri au Khabour: mémoire et histoire (“Assyrians from Hakkâri to Khabour: memory and history”), La Géorgie : entre Perse et Europe (“Georgia: between Persia and Europe”).
Florence presented several of her books to the public at the Institute. Until 2019, she was also an active member of the editorial board of the Kurdish Institute’s journal Études Kurdes, where her knowledge, her rigorous spirit, her good humour and her unfailing optimism were much appreciated.
Her death is a great loss to Kurdish, Assyrian-Chaldean and Iranian studies.